In what will be one of the last acts of his presidency, Barack Obama has issued an executive order addressing invasive species and the need to prevent further spread of invasive pests. In an executive order issued on December 5th, the President reiterated the need for the continued efforts to “…prevent the introduction of invasive species and provide for their control, and to minimize the economic, plant, animal, ecological, and human health impacts that invasive species cause…”
While comprehensively describing the continued need for focus on invasive species, the Order also strengthens current Federal efforts with specific action items. Among those are continued support for the Invasive Species Advisory Committee and expansion of the National Invasive Species Council. The role of the Council and its duties are also clarified and updated.
The Order also recognizes additional considerations that must be taken into account in invasive species management going forward. Future management plans for invasive species should consider public health, climate change, and innovative technologies, which are termed “Emerging Priorities” in the document. Specifically, federal agencies shall consider: 1) how invasive species impact public health and safety, 2) climate change predictions when making management decision for invasive species, and 3) incorporating new knowledge and techniques in management plans.
Although the Order is directed at Federal agencies, those same priorities have also become points of emphasis here in Vermont. Health issues with cyanobacterial blooms, and the influence that invasive species such as zebra mussels have on the prevalence and severity of such blooms, is a constant concern in the Green Mountain State. Considering a changing climate, natural resource managers in Vermont and elsewhere are reevaluating where invasive species might spread and thrive, as well as how indigenous species may struggle to adapt to changing conditions in their native ranges. Also, new technologies for controlling and eradicating invasive pests are consistently being examined for their effectiveness in battling some of Vermont’s worst invaders, such as Eurasian watermilfoil and Japanese knotweed.
This executive action indicates that the Federal government takes the threat of invasive species, both terrestrial and aquatic, very seriously. Invasive species have become an enormous environmental, economic, and social issue. Luckily, the U.S. government will continue its efforts to protect its resources from exotic invaders.